Twelve Ravens Thoughts ahead of NFL scouting combine

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With the NFL scouting combine convening in Indianapolis this week, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Lamar Jackson saga still boils down to each side — like it or not — having a legitimate argument. Jackson believes he deserves more than the inferior Deshaun Watson while the Ravens view Cleveland fully guaranteeing that deal as a foolish outlier they’re not interested in normalizing. Hence, the impasse. 

2. Both Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh are scheduled to talk to reporters in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. I expect the word-to-substance ratio on all things Jackson to be quite imbalanced, but I’ll be following along like everyone else. Who would have imagined this two years ago? 

3. I’d much prefer discussing what to do at cornerback or which wide receiver to target for a team desperately needing one or two, but the simplest of roster decisions and the direction of the football team are driven by Jackson’s status. Everything else feels inconsequential right now. 

4. In deciding which franchise tag to use, DeCosta must consider what the Ravens really want out of this and consider Jackson’s response. Even if the non-exclusive tag is too risky from a return value standpoint, is the exclusive tag leading to an eventual solution or both sides digging in harder?   

5. For observers desiring a resolution, the waiting remains the hardest part as Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Justin Herbert are now eligible for extensions and monitoring Jackson’s situation. Everyone will be looking for someone else to act first. Immediate cap concerns aside, the Ravens might still benefit by waiting too.

6. Seeing some pundits repeatedly conflating the reported offer of fully guaranteed money at signing with total guaranteed money is disappointing. They should know better and either don’t understand how contract structure works or are pushing an agenda when making such comparisons. 

7. I couldn’t be less moved by conjecture over Jackson’s level of involvement in the offensive coordinator search. Even if he were signed long term, was anyone anticipating him sitting in on interviews or vetting candidates? Anything beyond some cursory communication with your quarterback is pretty rare with these searches.  

8. Many have cited Baltimore having a 4-9 record in games in which Jackson was inactive or injured over the last two seasons, but is a team being worse with its backup supposed to be something revelatory? Unfortunately, playing nearly 13 full games without Jackson is the more pertinent problem here. 

9. If Jackson were reigning MVP, there’d be no debate, but 2019 was four years ago and durability concerns are understandable for someone whose athleticism remains critical to his performance. Such realities don’t disqualify a more conventional lucrative commitment by any means, but they don’t inspire me to follow Cleveland’s lead. 

10. Perhaps I’d feel better about a full guarantee if 2022 hadn’t crumbled with Baltimore’s mystifying approach at wide receiver and Greg Roman becoming a lame duck even before Jackson’s injury. A new coordinator and plan to evolve offensively would have been informative in the final year of Jackson’s rookie deal.

11. Even if you believe the organization is right and reasonable in its stance, thoughts of parting with Jackson sound better in spring theory than autumn practice. No, the Ravens wouldn’t be doomed for eternity, but the fallout would be substantial on multiple levels. It’s not an enviable place to be.

12. Is there a long-term contract structure that could work? Is Jackson willing to play on the tag or finally force the Ravens’ hand after not doing so last year? Is there another team willing to meet the asking price for both Jackson’s contract and Baltimore’s trade compensation? Nobody really knows

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